Freeway commuters have anticipated remedies to Highway 101 traffic backups for decades, and a new fix is on the way soon.
A two-year, $50 million Caltrans project to extend carpool lanes through Novato broke ground on Thursday, and it is expected to reduce driver frustration, vehicle congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.
Several dozen Caltrans officials, construction managers, elected officials and other government leaders were on hand for the traditional golden shovel ceremony at the Park and Ride lot off Rowland Boulevard. The Novato City Council was represented by Carole Dillon-Knutson, and the Marin County Board of Supervisors was represented by District 5’s Judy Arnold. Representatives from the offices of U.S. Rep. Lynn Woolsey, state Sen. Mark Leno and Assemblyman Jared Huffman joined in.
Caltrans District 4 Director Bijan Sartipi provided the basics on the first phase of the Marin Sonoma Narrows Project on Highway 101 that will add 3.2 miles of northbound lane between Highway 37 and Atherton Avenue and 1.6 miles of southbound lane between Novato Creek (between Rowland and De Long) and Highway 37.
The high-occupancy vehicle lanes eventually will be part of a continuous lane between Novato and Mill Valley.
The first phase will have little to do with what local residents call the Narrows — the part of 101 north of Atherton Avenue where three lanes narrow to two. Caltrans knows that is the real bottleneck for those heading toward Petaluma, but the HOV lanes south of there are the first step to traffic relief, officials said. Widening the road between Novato and Petaluma is scheduled to start in a few years.
Of the $50 million for the first phase, $31 million comes from Proposition 1B, approved by voters in 2006 for transportation projects, Caltrans said.